Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. Today is day one of this new series, and I’m very excited to be part of it.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To kick off this series, I’d like to talk about becoming your own self-editor.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

Why Learn How To Self-Edit?

With the advent of self-publishing, there is no one stopping a writer from publishing poor fiction that does not sell.

So what can new fiction writers do to ensure they’ve written a story that works and is ready to share?

They need to complete a big-picture story edit and rewrite the first draft.

Science fiction novelist Michael Crichton agrees when he says: “Great books are not written–they’re rewritten.   

But big-picture editing and rewriting is hard and can take months to complete.

Today, I’ll give you a place to start with a focus on plot. 

Plot describes the events that take place in your story. The events occur in a sequence, and that sequence forms the structure of your novel. You’ll most likely have a main plot and one or two subplots. Your protagonist (main character) follows the main plot. Secondary characters follow the subplots.

Your job as a writer is to evaluate how you’ve written the plot (and subplots) and to rewrite until you’ve created a compelling story for your readers. Then you can move on to word choice, style, and copyediting.

Your plot is made up of scenes. If you make each scene great, have each scene flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense to the reader, and pay attention to the key elements of fiction for each scene, you’ll end up with a great novel.

The first element under PLOT to evaluate is the purpose of the scene. The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, ask yourself why you included the scene in your novel.

Once you know the purpose of each scene, you want to test how the flow of your novel is working. To do this, keep track of how you enter and exit each scene.

For entering each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you enter each scene in your draft?
  • Have a hook that draws the reader into the scene?
  • Anchor the reader in terms of point of view, setting, and timing?

For exiting each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you end each scene?
  • Have a hook that makes the reader want to start the next scene?
  • Use a technique that connects the current scene to the following scene?

Answer each of the above questions for every scene, use the answers to rewrite the scenes, and you’ll be sure to improve your story.

More Self-Editing Advice

BIG-PICTURE EditingIf you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The Key Elements Of Fiction and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?

Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app .

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…

Mystery Mondays: Author Garry Ryan on Keeping A Novel Relevant

I know a secret! Today on Mystery Mondays, Garry Ryan, best-selling author of the Detective Lane Mysteries, is here to talk about keeping a novel relevant. But that’s not the secret.

Do you want to know the secret? Of course you do.

The next novel in the Detective Lane series will be published by NeWest Press this year! The title:  MATANZAS.

The blurb is below…Maybe if we’re lucky, Garry will give us more details on the release.

And now over to Garry.

Keeping a Novel Relevant by Garry Ryan 

How do you make a book relevant at release? A few years can pass after the process of writing, submitting and editing is completed. It can become a bit of a challenge to remain current.

As a result, I look for plausible predictions of what’s likely to happen. I also watch trends and think about outcomes.

Matanzas might work as an example here. It’s set in Cuba and Calgary. Before writing the novel there had been whisperings about Cuba and the US normalizing relations. After the book was written and accepted by the publisher, the US reopened its embassy in Havana. It was necessary to keep this likely scenario in mind while developing characters and plot so as not to make any obvious errors.


I’ve also been watching the changes happening in Latin America while working on novels exploring the relationship between Canada and Mexico. It’s really about seeing how the old, the new and our cultures interact during difficult times. Carrying a camera documents these changes, which comes in handy when writing scenes.


Predicting the future is a fool’s game, but considering a variety of outcomes and how they might legitimize or compromise a novel is worth considering.



Matanzas Cover copyHis psyche still reeling from having to kill a criminal in the line of duty, Calgary’s Detective Lane flies to Cuba to celebrate the wedding of his beloved niece. While there, though, he finds himself drafted by the local police into investigating the murder of a Canadian tourist.

Upon his return to Calgary, links between this incident and the deaths of local elderly pensioners start to make themselves known, drawing Lane and his partner Nigel Li further into a web of conspiracy, politics and big money.

Garry Ryan’s award-winning, best-selling mystery series continues with all the intrigue, good humour and mochaccinos that fans have come to expect.

Who is Garry Ryan?



Since 2004 Garry Ryan has published nine novels with NeWest Press. The second, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant, won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award. In 2009, Ryan was awarded Calgary’s Freedom of Expression Award.

Mystery Mondays: Patricia F. Pagan On Writing In A Busy Life.

Welcome, Patricia F. Pagan. First, congratulations to Patricia on being a new mom. How she finds to time be a mom, write and work is a mystery..one and we’ll soon learn about.

Writing When You’re Busy by Patricia F. Pagan.

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working adoptive mom, Approaching Footsteps, was published by feminist publisher Spider Road Press in late November. I am very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I am so pleased that readers are enjoying the four unique and suspenseful novellas, and I’m happy and that I am finally finding a path as a writer/parent of a young child. I have to beat back some tree limbs, and watch out for garter snakes, but the path stands firm beneath my feet.

Writers need time alone to create. Many writers are introverts. And, ask any parent, alone time gets chiseled out of sleep time. Whether at 5 am or 10 pm, it’s only when the kids sleep that mama is truly free to create. Taking alone time to invite the muse also means one has fewer hours in which to connect with other parents, a key to fighting isolation, and to getting tips for dealing with toddler temper tantrums in a quiet library. I met a writer and actress through my church who also has a toddler- and it has been great to commiserate in person, but also via email when we feel we need precious time to be alone. Other creative moms get it. They never say platitudes like “the days are long, but the years are short,” they empower you to take the time to write, because you’ll be happier, and then you’ll be a better parent.

In her recent piece, “For Writers Who Are Also The Mothers of Small Children,” Marcy Dermansky writes, “I want to hug every last mother-writer I know with a small child. I want to tell them it will be ok.”

It’s hard not to feel guilty when you choose an hour with your characters over an hour with your child. However, as writers, our words and tenacity define us. We are role modeling that creativity and doggedness matter. That stories merit time and attention. That fiction can be magic.

As long as I spend as much time as I can reading stories to my child, I know that it’s OK to take some time to craft them.

WHO IS Patricia Flaherty Pagan?

Patricia Flaherty Pagan loves writing and reading about complex female characters. She is the author of Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories and the writer of award winning literary and crime short stories such as “Bargaining” and “Blood-red Geraniums.” She edited Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers. She teaches flash fiction writing at Writespace in Houston. After earning her MFACW from Goddard College, she founded Spider Road Press to champion writing by and/or about strong women. Learn more about her recent release, Approaching Footsteps, and her upcoming events on her website: http://www.patriciaflahertypagan.com. Follow her on Twitter : @PFwriteright

WHAT DOES Patricia Write?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Four compelling novellas add up to one suspenseful and entertaining collection.

Enjoy suspenseful tales with unexpected twists? These four compelling, unique novellas

by women will keep you guessing.

*Best-selling novelist Donna Hill spins a gripping tale of desperation and danger in “136 Auburn Lane.”

*Author Jennifer Leeper puts her own spin on noir fiction in “The Reiger File.”

*In “A Night with Kali,” writer & scholar Rita Banerjee blends a story of two unlikely allies trapped in a monsoon with a tale of murder and magic.

*In the historical novella “Brave Enough to Follow,” debut writer Megan Stuessloff tells the story of an interracial couple and the deadly price that must be paid for freedom.

*Editor Patricia Flaherty Pagan curates these rich narratives and the highlights of Spider Road Press’ recent flash fiction contests.

5% for Healing: Five percent of the proceeds from this collection benefit rape crisis and veterans’ charities.


Camp NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words in 1 month?

This year, I decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. When I checked out the process, I discovered there is such a thing as Camp NaNoWriMo that happens in July.

As far as I can tell the only difference is that in July, the participating author can select the word count. In November, everyone tries to write 50,000 words in a month.

For Camp NaNoWriMo, I chose 50,00 words just to see if I could do it.

Here are my stats from yesterday:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.39 PM

I’m usually a panster, but writing 50,000 words in one month without an outline seemed intimidating, so before July 1st, I created an outline. Each day I write from the outline instead of having to come up with an idea.

Here are the projections:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.45 PM

I have to say, the process is motivating me to write. I’ve never written to a word count before, and it’s amazing that just by publicly saying what my word count goal is, I find the time magically appears when I can sit down and write.

So can I make it? I’ll let you now…

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.51 PM

Now I have to get back to writing and put 1,529 words on the page today.

Thanks for reading…


Mystery Mondays: A Gift For You

Today is the one year anniversary of Mystery Mondays.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 2.24.17 PMI’m very excited to announce Mystery Mondays: 2015-2016 Writing Tips From Over 30 Contributing Authors.

So many of the authors who contributed to Mystery Mondays agreed to have their posts included in this free book. If you’d like a free copy, just sign up for my newsletter. Assuming I’ve done everything right, you should be emailed a PDF version. I’m working on a mobi version to be released later.

Being a author and promoting ones’s books means living in an endless journey of learning something new. This is my first time using MailChimp, so please let me know if something doesn’t work or is inconvenient to use.

The contributing authors in alphabetical order are:

Cathy Ace, Judy Alter, Catherine Astolfo, Carol Balawyder, M.H. Callway, Melodie Campbell, Brenda Chapman, Viv Drewa, Ann Farnsworth, Gloria Ferris, Kat Flannery, Elinor Florence, Darlene Foster, Barbara Fradkin, Patricia Fry, Donna Galanti, Teagan Riordain Geneviene, Jesse Giles Christiansen, R.J. Harlick, J.D. Hawkins, James M. Jackson, Debra Purdy Kong, C.S. Lakin, Rosemary McCracken, Luke, Murphy, Lisa de Nikolits, Jessica Norrie, Michael Phillips, Katherine Prairie, Amy M. Reade, Garry Ryan, Laurence St. John, Judy Penz Sheluk, Eileen Schuh, Janice Spina, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Susan Toy, and  Tracy L. Ward.

Thank you to all who contributed to the book and to everyone who has been reading, commenting and sharing the posts.

To all contributing authors, I will send you a copy of the book, too!

And you know me, I can’t help but mention AVALANCHE, A Stone Mountain Mystery #3 is being released Saturday. You can pre-order for $0.99 USD for a limited time. The trade paperback is also now available on Amazon.com and will be released soon on the remaining Amazon sites.


Mystery Mondays: Susan Toy on Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

I “met” Susan Toy  when she agreed to host me on ReadingRecommendations. I was nervous approaching her and requesting a guest spot. But she generously welcomed me and showed me the ropes for guest blogging. Today, I finally get to return the favour by having Susan on Mystery Mondays.

Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

by Susan M. Toy

… or I’m Writing as Fast as I Can!!It’s been four years since I published my first novel in the Bequia Perspectives series. Four long years. I began writing Island in the Clouds in 2001 with the intention of eventually writing and publishing a quartet of novels all set on the Caribbean island of Bequia and involving murder and mystery of some sort or another. So I gave the first novel that sub-title, suggesting the books that followed would be written from various perspectives of people living on the island. My cover designer, Jenny Ryan, further sealed the deal by adding a “1” to the top of the spine of the print edition. There was no going back on my word.

cover susan full colour jan2012 - large - Copy

In 2004, I completed the first draft of One Woman’s Island. 2006 saw the major completion of Number Three, Tropical Paradox (I wrote this for the Humber School of Creative Writing program). Number Four in the quartet (working title: Menopausal Mamas) began as a NaNoWriMo project, but it quickly developed into another novel set on Bequia. 2007 was when I wrote the bulk of that novel.

I tell you all this, because it’s not for lack of material I haven’t yet published another novel in this Bequia series.

I just happen to be the Queen of the Procrastinators. Heck! Writing this guest blog post is another means of procrastinating!! Procrastination is not my only problem, however. It’s what leads me to procrastinate that I want to address here. After all, it’s not like I’ve just been too lazy to get that second novel prepared and published. (Well, I have been sort of lazy, but there have been other mitigating circumstances.)

Over the past four years (I ePublished Island in the Clouds in Feb. 2012) I have promoted myself and my book, continued promoting other authors through Alberta Books Canada, looked for and developed new ways for all authors to promote themselves and their books; moved from Canada back to Bequia; developed the idea behind IslandShorts and ePublished (Oct. 2013) several short stories by J. Michael Fay and my own novella, That Last Summer.

I created the blog Reading Recommendations https://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/ (Nov. 2013) and have promoted close to 300 authors from around the world (including Kristina Stanley!

https://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/kristina-stanley/) through that site. I have beta-read a number of author-friends’ manuscripts and helped them prepare for publication. I’ve been working with a new writer who will be ePublishing a full-length non-fiction book with photographs through IslandEditions. Bought a trailer in Ontario where I will now spend my summer months. I contributed a short story to Tim Baker’s https://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/tim-baker-2/ collection, Path of a Bullet, and I’ve written a number of guest blog posts as well as series of posts on my own blog that have proved to be very successful. I even took part in a discussion on self-publishing held at the

I even took part in a discussion on self-publishing held at the Calgary Public Library when I was visiting the city last October. Oh, yeah – and I read A LOT of books! Drank buckets of coffee. (AND WAS SUCKED INTO THE FACEBOOK VORTEX FROM TIME TO TIME, OF WHICH I AM SORELY ASHAMED.)

So cut me some slack!

Truth told, though, I’m not being entirely honest with you about the real problem of what’s held me back from rewriting and publishing that second novel, and I’m here now to confess my sins. Much of what I mentioned above that has kept me busy during the past four years is indeed busy-work … and an excuse on my part. (Whoa! I just went into the kitchen to begin washing dishes in order to avoid writing about this problem of mine! Housework signifies serious work avoidance.)

The real problem lies in this being my second book – my sophomore novel. Let’s face it, I have been extremely lucky and blessed with the response to Island in the Clouds. Really, only a couple … okay, three, reviews that were less than stellar. The rest, and many written by readers I didn’t know before publishing, were nothing short of excellent and praising, and so many of those readers have been asking for another novel about Bequia, because they enjoyed the first that much. An author can’t ask for anything more!

Jenny Ryan has already designed a cover and it’s been sitting on my desktop ever since – for inspiration. That was the reason I placed it there, anyway.



I did receive some feedback about a few aspects of the first novel that have helped me make changes to the second. I had always intended the second to be written from the perspective of a different character than Geoff, the narrator in the first, but I’ve also decided to change a number of the secondary characters who were in the first novel and introduce new ones that are solely figments of my imagination. (No more “Is this so-and-so?” from readers who know Bequia.) I spent a lot of time, especially during this past year, recreating characters and adding new material to the story line. I’m just about finished with that, am finally working on the last chapter, and will send the entire manuscript on to my editor Rachel Small http://rachelsmallediting.com/ to have at it. I know there will be necessary rewrites after that, so my dream date of May 1st for publication has already faded away. I’ve decided not to make any more promises. This novel will be finished and published when it’s good and ready!

But all this does not explain my real reason for taking my time. In all honesty, I am downright scared of the dreaded …

Sophomore Slump!!!

You know, the second novel not living up to the enthusiastic reception of the first, that it’s all wrong and readers are going to hate it. My fear has kept me from the keyboard, has caused me to find other things to do – anything at all! – to avoid finishing and publishing, actually proving that my fears are true!

So that’s what it’s all about, Alfie. (And Tim and Rachel.) And the more often well-meaning friends ask, “When will your next novel be published?” the more I dig in my heels on my way to the computer, do an about-face, and find something else to spend my time on instead. Oh, look! Another author who needs to be promoted!

This guest blog post for Kristina’s Mystery Mondays was originally intended to be a little shove in the right direction, to encourage me to finish, because I now had a deadline to meet. When we discussed my writing something for her blog, I really did believe I’d have One Woman’s Island published by this date, so my post should have acted as a promotion of the book. Instead, I’m leaving you, Kristina’s readers, with a link to the first novel (in case they haven’t read it yet) and a promise that the second novel will be finished and published … soon. I hope. But not before it’s time.

Reminds me of this old Orson Welles commercial …


But right now I do believe it’s time to make another pot of coffee.

SusanToy-1Susan M. Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishers’ sales rep, and is a promoter of books, authors and reading. You may learn more about Susan here. https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/about-susan-m-toy/

For more information about her published books, click here for Island in the Clouds https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/island-in-the-clouds-a-bequia-novel/ and here for That Last Summer. https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/islandshorts/






Mystery Mondays: Kathy Prairie On Inner Voices and Her New Release

Thirst webToday on Mystery Mondays we welcome Canadian author Kathy Prairie. This is a special week for Kathy. Her novel, THIRST, is now available for pre-order and the official launch is February 18th. Yup, That’s this Thursday.

I’m thrilled to be part of Kathy’s launch and to have her share her writing advice on “inner voices.”

To entice you to have a look at THIRST, R.J Harlick, a previous guest on Mystery Mondays has this to say:

“With compelling characters and an extraordinary setting, THIRST is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last word.” – R.J. Harlick, author of the popular Meg Harris mystery series

That’s just a teaser for now. The description of THIRST is as the bottom of the blog.

So on to Kathy and her advice on finding your inner voice…

INNER VOICES by Kathy Prairie

I’m delighted to join a fellow B.C. author today – thanks for the invitation, Kristina.

I’ve heard the advice “find your voice” at almost every writing workshop I’ve attended and while the concept seemed simple enough, trying to achieve it has been anything but. So today I’d like to share the three elements that were key to finding my voice: characters, perspective and style.

First a simple defintion of voice: It’s your signature, your way of telling a story. But I think it’s also that sweet spot where your sentences flow with ease and your characters come to life. If you find that spot you’re sharing your personality with your readers and your writing will be as unique as a fingerprint.

I’d suggest that you start with your characters because they tell your story. In our lifetimes we probably meet thousands of people and no two of the them are exactly the same and your characters should be unique too. There are many decisions here including gender, profession, physical appearance, personality and motivations and it can be tough! I’ve heard much advice about writing what you know, but I believe it’s more important to write about what interests you.

I’m fascinated by science and intrigued by politics and through my geologist Alex Graham, I’m able to weave these elements into my stories. She’s an interesting character to me, someone I’d like to know in real life and I look forward to writing more stories about her. Ask yourself what kind of personalities most interest you. Are you intrigued by the psychology of the criminal mind or the intellect of the puzzle-solving detective? If you follow your passion, you’ll create memorable characters and perhaps find a protagonist you love enough to include in another book.

Next focus on how your characters will tell their story. First person proved the most challenging for me, but I liked the resulting scenes. Omniscient on the other hand, never really felt right because of its impersonal nature. But limited third person felt right from the start because my story flowed effortlessly through each character’s viewpoint.

You might find that you naturally gravitate towards first person, omniscient or third person but it’s worth exploring each of them fully. A simple change from “she” to “I” can profoundly affect your scenes and I found that my style, the dialogue, the details – everything shifted as I moved from one perspective to another. I wrote three complete scenes in each perspective before finally deciding on third person and even now when I’m having trouble with a particular scene, I’ll switch to first person because it changes how I see the scene and often identifies the problem.

Once you’ve decided on perspective and characters it all comes down to how you tell your story. If you allow your characters to guide you, you may find that your style develops naturally. For example, a hard-boiled detective would tell a story differently than a twelve-year-old girl.

The nature of your sentences – smooth, choppy, long, short. The kind of language you use – gritty, soft. The level of description – too many adjectives, too few, too flowery, too blunt. All of these elements contribute to your unique writing style and you need to find what suits you best. I’ve found that some of the most interesting authors break the grammar rules, so go ahead and explore. Don’t get me wrong, your story has to be readable and you should never ignore the good advice of your editor, but you also don’t need to sound exactly like everyone else.

How you paint a scene or describe a character is equally important. Some authors include few details while others write long descriptions and especially if you’re a new author, you’ll likely favour one extreme or the other. Read your favourite authors. Do you skip over the details or read every word? You probably won’t feel any more comfortable writing loads of description if you don’t like to read it. But your challenge is to balance your natural writing style against the reader’s need for detail. Push beyond your comfort zone here and add a little more descriptive detail as you write, and vice-versa and you may find your answer.

Through characters, perspective and style I finally feel that I’ve found my voice and focusing on these elements might also work for you. Your voice will evolve over time as your writing matures – I’ve seen that happen already in my own work – but your overall approach should stay steady. And if you stay true to your personality your voice is guaranteed to be unique!

Kathy’s Biography

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.22.32 PMKatherine, a geologist and IT specialist, stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion for writing. An avid traveller with an insatiable curiosity, you never know where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller THIRST.






Science. Politics. Deadly Intent.

Deep in a Columbia River valley rocked by violence and tightly controlled by a U.S.-Canada military force, geologist Alex Graham is on the hunt for silver. Her plans are derailed when she joins the search for a suspected toxic spill as the victim count rises. But the lethal contamination is no accident.